Friday, April 07, 2006

Office Space


My meeting schedule changed and I got to come home a day early from my business trip! It was great (really!) to wake to Q's morning cry and go pick him up to snuggle.

After the rainiest month since 1904 in the Bay Area, it was quite ironic to spend a week in notoriously damp Seattle and have it be sunny every single day. I sat in a colleague's office, looking out the window at the sunlight glinting off the water of Elliot Bay. Folks on the other side of the building have a view of the Space Needle.

This quite foreign to the rest of the company (mostly located near San Jose), which is housed out of small, uniform cubicles without windows. I have no complaints, however. Here is a tour of interesting office spaces where I've worked.

As a high school intern, my first workspace was a metal Army desk on a manufacturing shop floor. All the other engineers, including the managers, sat in the same conditions, so it felt very friendly to my young self. The machinery chunked away nearby with comforting tempos, and I was awed by the early ink-jet technology being developed.

After college and going into consulting, the Firm sent me to a project where they stuffed two of us newbies into a printer closet. The large dot-matrix z-fold paper printer had been relegated to this closet because it so shriekingly noisy that the other office workers couldn't focus. Somehow, they managed to fit a table into the space, and there we worked, with the door closed so that the racket wouldn't disturb others. I was somewhat less than awed by this.



(What does Octy have to do with this story? Nothing really, but there was so much text here that I needed to break it up with some gratuitous cuteness.)

Later, I was assigned to another company where they had converted a loading dock into a workspace by closing the rail door and putting in some desks. I learned to code well in gloves that winter.

Not long after that, the Firm sent me along with a massive team of consultants to a tech company in dire need of a systems overhaul. They handed over their conference center and turned it into a bullpen of consultant desks. Whenever it rained, the power would go out. You had to look behind you before you leaned back in your chair, since we were so tightly packed that the only person who felt ok in the space was an ex-submariner. Since all the meeting rooms now housed consultants, we resorted holding staff meetings in someone's car in the parking lot.

The next tech company moved my team from place to place, until they found an abandoned server room and squeezed in enough tables to seat four. There was a combination button-press locking mechanism on the door that had been disabled, but it must still have had electricity running through it, because the door handle was remarkably hot to the touch. As consultants with no employee number, we weren't able to open a facilities ticket to get it fixed, so we just hoped that none of us would get electrocuted. Eventually, an employee sponsor agreed to file a complaint for us, but they never managed to repair it.

So, I'm pretty happy with my cubicle. My own 6 x 6 feet of space. The electricity works, the heat and air conditioning run, I'm not afraid of imminent electrocution, and I don't have to share it with any loud machinery.

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